Why You Should be Buying Carlos Carrasco in Dynasty Fantasy Baseball Next Year
Allow me to present you fine readers with a choice. I assure you it is a good one to which there is no bad answer. Mostly because both options are dope as all get up.
Take a peek at the chart below. Look at the numbers, and then decide which pitcher you'd rather have. Again, there is no wrong answer.
|Player||Starts||Strikeout Rate||Walk Rate||Ground-Ball Rate||xFIP|
Now, I would likely pick Player A because of the lower xFIP, but I have to admit that the strikeout rate and ground-ball rate of Player B are a truly elite combination.
Because you probably read the title of this page (cheater), you know that one of these players is Carlos Carrasco. That would be Player B. Who's Player A? That's his teammate, Corey Kluber. And not the 2015 version of Kluber. The version that won the American League Cy Young in 2014. If I were to show you this year's numbers for Kluber, it wouldn't be a hard choice: Carrasco would get the nod.
Over the past two seasons, Carrasco has established himself as one of the game's top pitchers. It's time for us to start viewing him in this same light in the fantasy realm.
Why Carrasco's Success is Sustainable
If you had skepticism about Carrasco heading into the season, I couldn't blame you. He had only made 14 starts the previous season, and while they were good starts, they weren't reflective of his track record. It's hard to shape someone's impression of a guy whose career xFIP was above 4.00 over the course of 14 starts.
This year should serve as validation of Carrasco's arrival. The numbers I showed you above are absurdly good relative to the amount of respect that Carrasco gets.
For some perspective, Carrasco was one of only six pitchers this year to average more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings (with a minimum of 100 innings as a starter). Of those six, only one other hurler had a ground-ball rate above 50.0 percent. That would be some dude named Clayton Kershaw. He's pretty good.
If we expand this to look at pitchers with at least 9.00 strikeouts per nine innings and a 50.0 ground-ball rate, the list adds four additional names. Of those four, only one (Jake Arrieta) issued fewer than 2.50 walks per nine innings, while Carrasco was at 2.11. That's not bad company for good ol' Mr. Carrasco (nor Mr. Arrieta, for that matter).
Let's try to increase our sample size by including Carrasco's starts from last year. This gives us 44 starts from which we can judge him, certainly significant enough to draw conclusions.
Over the past two years, 191 pitchers have thrown at least 100 innings as a starter. Of those 191, the best xFIP comes from Kershaw at 2.08. No shocker there. Second is the great Jose Fernandez at 2.43 (please stay healthy, bruh). In a tie for third place are Stephen Strasburg... and Carrasco. If we judge him by the company he has kept over that span, then Carrasco should be thought of as one of the game's top pitchers. Why is this not necessarily the case?
Why Carrasco's Traditional Stats Have Lagged Behind
The problem with looking at Carrasco from this angle is that -- unless you play in the coolest league ever -- xFIP isn't a fantasy stat. The strikeouts are great, but his traditional stats -- the ones that count in fantasy -- aren't as good as his peripheral stats. Why is this?
Part of it is the team around him. The Indians' defense the first half of the season was truly bad, and team defense is something you should be considering when making fantasy decisions. They couldn't get much going, and it dragged the pitching down as the team fell well below .500. The second half was different.
At the end of the year, the Indians' leaders in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) were Lonnie Chisenhall and Francisco Lindor. Chisenhall posted 11 DRS in right field this year, and he didn't even play there until July 31st after some time in Triple-A. Lindor accounted for 10 DRS, and he didn't make his debut in the field until June 16th. The differences these two guys made were startling.
Over his first 13 starts (the number he made before Lindor's debut), Carrasco's ERA sat at 4.38. Over his next eight starts (the ones he made between Lindor's debut and Chisenhall's debut in right field), that dropped to 3.54. The rest of the year, his ERA was only 2.72. Each time the defense added a plus defender, Carrasco's ERA shot down.
I don't want to address his ability to get wins (Carrasco had a 14-12 record) because wins are the worst, but I know that some people still play in leagues in which wins are a category. If this is you, a) I will pay your commissioner in (likely burnt) homemade cookies to change the scoring rules, and b) there's reason for hope for Carrasco here, too.
Carrasco's mediocre win-loss record was partly due to the fact that the Indians couldn't give him a whole lot of run support. They finished the first half of the season ranked 18th in wOBA. The second half, things picked up as they moved up to ninth place. A lot of this was because of improving health, but Lindor's presence on the offensive end can't be overlooked here, either.
All of these factors combine to indicate that Carrasco is on the verge of a fantasy-baseball breakout in 2016. I'm not trying to tell you that he'll come cheap, whether you are buying him in a dynasty league or trying to select him in re-draft. However, I can almost guarantee you that he will be under-priced because of the factors listed above.
If Carrasco (and the team around him) are able to put everything together, this dude should be a contender to bring the Cy Young back to Cleveland. His peripheral stats have showed him as one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past two years, and you'll want him on your fantasy squad when the traditional stats start to reflect that.